Observations on Learning

time to read 2 min | 315 words

Here is an observation on learning. When I was at high school, I was thought Pascal, and I couldn't for the life of me understand dynamic memory allocation. I had little problem with everything else, but dynamic memory allocation (better known as pointers) was a mystery wrapped in an enigma stashed inside a headache.

About a year later, I was learning C++, and was one of the first in the class that grasped pointers and their usages. I remember trying to explain ***pppHead (sparse matrix) to another student, and he drew blank after the first level of indirection. I don't think that the quality of the teachers was that different,  and the material is basically the same, but I grokked the second and couldn't figure out the first.

I have run into this many times since, usually a piece of technology just doesn't make sense to me, and at one point, it clicks together, and it is "Oh, that is simple!"

For a while now, I have been feeling my lack of knowledge in the area of parsers, and I kept trying to learn ANTLR on my own. I got to the point where I could read EBNF fairly well, and actually make sense of it, but taking the next step to actually building a language has been beyond me. Yesterday I picked up The Definitive ANTLR Reference, and I have been going through it with a fairly rapid pace. I don't think that at my level, the book is offering something that isn't already available online, but I have been able to understand how things mesh together much better now.

I feel that now, I am not competent with parser building, it is certainly something that I can be with a reasonable amount of real world practice. In other words, I think that I am going to be able parsers and parser building to my toolbox.